People can have concerns about ovarian cancer for many reasons. For example, they may have risk factors, be experiencing symptoms, or have received a diagnosis. Knowing the statistics can sometimes help put things into perspective.

Some questions a person may wish to ask include:

  • How common is ovarian cancer?
  • Who is most at risk?
  • What is the outlook for someone with a diagnosis?

Cancer, including ovarian cancer, affects everyone differently. However, knowing some of the statistics can help a person understand whether or not the symptoms they have are likely to indicate ovarian cancer and, if so, the chance of treatment being effective.

In this article, find out how common ovarian cancer is, what the life expectancy is for people with ovarian cancer, who it is likely to affect, and more.

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In the United States, the American Cancer Society (ACS) notes that:

  • Around 21,410 people will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 2021.
  • There will be around 13,770 deaths due to ovarian cancer in 2021.
  • The chance of developing ovarian cancer at some time is about 1 in 78.
  • The chance of dying from it is about 1 in 108.
  • Around 50% of cases affect those aged 63 years and over.
  • Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death in females.

Figures from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program suggest that both the number of new cases and the death rate have fallen slowly over the past 20 years.

A major factor influencing the outlook for cancer is its stage at diagnosis. There are numerous ways of staging ovarian cancer, but a simple approach is as follows:

  • Stage 1: The cancer is limited to the ovaries.
  • Stage 2: The cancer has spread to other pelvic organs.
  • Stage 3: The cancer is more advanced in the peritoneal cavity.
  • Stage 4: The cancer has spread to distant organs.

The table below, which is based on figures from the ACS, shows the rates for epithelial cancer. This type accounts for about 90% of ovarian cancers.

Stage5-year survival rate for epithelial cancer

Learn more about the stages and how long they take to develop here.

White people are more likely than Black people to develop ovarian cancer, according to the ACS.

However, research also shows that the life expectancy for Black people with ovarian cancer is lower than it is for white people with the condition.

According to one 2019 review, Black people were 25% less likely to receive treatment and 18% more likely to die from ovarian cancer than white people. In 1975–2010, the overall 5-year survival rate rose from 33% to 47% for white people but fell from 44% to 36% for Black people.

Possible factors may include socioeconomic status and access to healthcare, according to the review. These can result in a later stage diagnosis, when cancer is harder to treat.

The review authors call for more intervention to improve the quality of treatment for Black people with ovarian cancer and reduce disparities, which they describe as “continued and significant.”

Ovarian cancer affects the female reproductive system.

Some symptoms include:

  • pain or pressure in the pelvis
  • back or abdominal pain
  • feeling full after eating only a little
  • difficulty eating
  • changes in urination
  • bloating
  • constipation

What is the link between weight gain and ovarian cancer?

However, if a person develops these symptoms or if diagnostic tests suggest a tumor, it is worth remembering the following:

  • Other conditions have similar symptoms.
  • Not all tumors are cancerous.
  • Some types of ovarian cancer are easier to treat than others.

Some other conditions that can resemble ovarian cancer include:

What are the early symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Many different factors may increase a person’s risk of developing ovarian cancer. These risk factors include:

  • being older
  • using hormone treatment after menopause
  • having overweight or obesity
  • giving birth after 35 years of age or never having a full-term pregnancy
  • undergoing in vitro fertilization
  • having a family history of ovarian, breast, or colorectal cancer
  • having more menstrual cycles throughout one’s lifetime
  • using talcum powder

Some factors that may help prevent ovarian cancer include:

  • using birth control pills
  • having a pregnancy
  • undergoing bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, which refers to surgery to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes

Some transgender men choose to undergo oophorectomy during transitional surgery. This refers to the removal of the ovaries. This can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer but does not eliminate it.

There is also some evidence to suggest that androgen or testosterone treatment may increase the risk of ovarian cancer, though more research is necessary to confirm this.

Ovarian cancer is relatively rare among transgender men, according to the National LGBT Cancer Network. However, they may have a higher risk of ovarian cancer if they have never used birth control pills or given birth.

Stigma can also lead to barriers in seeking healthcare, which means that they may find it harder to access regular medical or gynecological care.

For these reasons, transgender men should be aware of the risks. The National LGBT Cancer Network encourages people to ask a friend, their insurance provider, or a local hospital to help them find a suitable healthcare professional and seek help early if symptoms arise.

The following data are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The table shows the number of new cases of ovarian cancer per 100,000 people for each U.S. state in 2017. The figures are age-adjusted to the 2000 U.S. standard population.

Overall, the number of new diagnoses per 100,000 females was 10, and the number of deaths was seven. In most states, the rate fell in 2015–2017.

U.S. stateNew cases per 100,000
District of Columbia10.4
New Hampshire9
New Jersey11.2
New Mexico11.1
New York11.5
North Carolina9.5
North Dakota8.1
Rhode Island9.4
South Carolina8
South Dakota11.1
West Virginia10.9

It is worth noting that although rates differ between states, geographical location is unlikely to be a cause or risk factor.

Receiving an early diagnosis of ovarian cancer increases the likelihood of being able to cure it.

The following tips may help improve the chance of getting an early diagnosis:

  • Know one’s own body and be aware of any changes.
  • Seek medical advice early if any changes occur.
  • Know the risk factors for ovarian cancer.
  • Ask a doctor about testing if one has a high risk.
  • Know how to recognize ovarian cancer and what to do if symptoms appear.

Knowing some of the statistics can help people understand their risk. However, it is important to remember that everyone’s experience is different.

Anyone who has concerns about symptoms or their risk should talk with a doctor, as there is a good chance of successful treatment with an early diagnosis and prompt treatment.

The ACS offers a range of resources to help people learn more about their cancer and find local support groups.